Steely determination, Jean Marie, head teacher, Rwanda

Head teacher Jean Marie worked as a primary school teacher for eight years to save up for the fees to complete his secondary school education. Confused?! Find out about his incredible journey here.

A life long dream

Head teacher Jean Marie has been convinced of the value of education and good teaching ever since he was a child, and has spent his whole life working towards the head teacher position he holds today. “When I was in primary school I recognised the efforts of my teacher and decided that was what I wanted to do,” he explains.

Because he was bright and his parents were poor, a sponsor agreed to pay his secondary school fees. Tragically however, in 1994, not long into his secondary education, the genocide disrupted everything. His sponsor was killed, and, no longer able to pay his fees, Jean Marie was forced to drop out.

Teaching to become a teacher

Determined not to let anything stand in the way of his dream of finishing his education and becoming a teacher, Jean Marie resolved to earn enough money to support himself through his final years of school. Ironically, the way he did this was in fact by teaching – as because so many teachers had fled or been killed during the genocide, anyone who had finished their primary education was encouraged to become primary teachers.

It took Jean Marie eight years to earn enough as an unqualified teacher to pay for his final years of secondary education, but by 2002 he was back in school, and by 2007 he was the fully qualified teacher he always wanted to be.

The importance of a good education

Just three years on, Jean Marie has been promoted to head teacher of Ntyazo Primary, a rural school in the southern province, where he is responsible for the education of 1,086 children. Despite receiving no extra training for the role, it is a responsibility he takes very seriously and he is determined his students receive a good education.

“I hope they do well and become important people,” he says. “For themselves and for their country. That includes many things – to be clever, to resolve problems in their life and in the lives of others. If they study very well they could become a leader, or a doctor, or a policeman.”

VSO volunteer helps improve his skills as a head teacher

Recently Jean Marie has been attending workshops run by VSO volunteer Melissa Hipkins, an education management adviser who has been working with the head teachers of 76 primary schools in the area.

“We’ve done many things,” explains Jean Marie. “She’s helped us to look at the statistics of term results and National Examination results, and she’s helped us to organise lesson inspection. She’s also shown us how to keep office documents and reports. This helps the organisation of the school, and so improves the children’s education.”

Putting skills to good use

Melissa will continue working with Jean Marie over the coming year. With his passion for education and his desire to serve his pupils well, the skills she is sharing will no doubt be put to good use.

How to apply

Interested in volunteering with VSO? Find out what you need to apply and begin your application process now.